By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
SALADO - Over the summer, Koby Spears hung up his cleats and helmet, and decided to focus on perfecting his skills on the hardcourt.
If Friday was any indication, the Salado senior made the right choice.
Spears combined for 42 points in two games as the host Eagles swept both, including a 76-32 blowout of Cameron Yoe at the 10th annual Coach Smith Memorial Tournament.
"Sometimes I regret (dropping football), but I had a lot of time to get better (at basketball) in the offseason, and I really wouldn't have had the time if I was playing football," said Spears, who dropped 22 points and two of Salado's seven 3-pointers in a 57-47 win over San Antonio Hawkins earlier in the day.
"He did a great job all day attacking the basket especially," Eagles coach Kenny Mann said of Spears. "He's really good off the dribble, and you wouldn't know it to look at him, so I think his opponents sometimes underestimate what he can do."
But after putting on a clinic inside and outside the lane, Spears will miss a rematch with No. 16 Liberty Hill in what amounts to the tournament championship game today at noon.
"I gotta perform when I can I guess," said Spears, who will be taking a college entrance exam during the game. "I want to be there (today) but I can't."
The two District 25-3A rivals squared off last year in the Coach Smith championship game, with Liberty Hill coming out on top 56-42.
"I'm glad we get to play them, it gives us a chance to have film on them to use that to scout and really look at what we can do to have a chance to win during district," Mann said.
After taking advantage of a defensive switch in a 70-30 rout of the Yoemen on Tuesday, Salado (10-2) found success again, this time with a full-court press.
Showing an aggressive front, the Eagles forced Cameron into four consecutive turnovers to flip a 5-5 tie into a 16-5 lead in just over a minute.
"They don't handle the press very well, so that's kind of why we did it," Mann said. "We haven't been pressing a lot, running more half-court man and zone, but we need to work on (pressing) to get a little better at it, so we worked on it (against Cameron)."
Beginning with a steal and fast-break bucket by Andrew Warren, senior wing Jada Kornegay stuck his hand into the lane and tipped a Yoemen pass to himself before finding Spears for a three-point play. Staying with it, Kornegay did it again on the ensuing inbounds play before feeding Spears for another bucket 11 seconds later to make it 14-5 with 4½ minutes left in the first.
"They're just not good ball handlers, which made it kind of easy on us I guess," Spears said.
Leading 22-13 at the end of the first quarter, Salado's relentless press continued to cause fits for Cameron as the Eagles scored the first eight points of the second and limited the Yoemen to just 1-of-11 shooting in the frame.
Taking advantage, Salado outscored Cameron 13-5 over the final three minutes and entered halftime with a 43-21 lead. Austin Adams added 13 points and five boards in the effort.
The Eagles took their first 30-point lead late in the third.
Along with Spears' 22 against Hawkins, Kornegay chipped in 19 and three 3-pointers as the Eagles jumped out to a 19-13 lead and never looked back.
Salado 50, McGregor 23 - At Salado, Carling Urben led the Lady Eagles with 20 points and Salado advanced to the Coach Smith Memorial Tournament championship at 4:30 p.m. today.
Salado, which led 18-4 after the first quarter, will play the Pflugerville JV.